Andrew Klein

To All Jewish College Students On The Verge Of Graduation

 
My name is Andrew Klein. A little more than half a year ago, I briefly stood on a podium in front of a sea of Rutgers students, holding my diploma in one hand, the other shaking hands with a dean whom I had never met before, but smiled broadly at me anyway. At that point, I was searching for full time employment, and had no idea where I might find myself in the months to come. Now, I am living in a south Tel Aviv neighborhood immersed in a community of immigrant families, working along side groups of Israeli volunteers. Over the summer, I decided to embark on a 10-month volunteer program called Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv-Jaffa. I want to tell you all the factors that helped lead to my decision, what the decision to partake in an overseas volunteer program entails, and what particularly my program has to offer.
 
    Going into graduation, my thoughts were focused on the task of finding a job. So we are taught: Go to college, graduate, find a job, or, if you have an particular ambition, return to grad school for further education. However, I started to adjust my mentality after a particularly interesting graduation speech from Mario Batali, famous for his role on the television show, "Iron Chef." He talked about his particular journey to success, a large part of it deriving from his experiences abroad after university. He described time abroad as essential to development, and encouraged all students to look into overseas opportunities, before giving in to prescribed nonsense. I was affected by his speech, and it was around this same time that a good friend of mine directed me to the website of Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv-Jaffa. I immediately sent in an application, and after a month or so of unsatisfactory job interviews, I was accepted into the Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv-Jaffa program, along with a substantial scholarship. I soon discussed my options with my parents, and after brief dissention over the fear of having to go a year without seeing their first-born son, they agreed that the program was in my best interests.
 
    I have now been in Israel approximately 5 months, and I am able to provide some of the experiences and challenges a volunteer program here may include. To engage in a year abroad, you need to be ready to part from your friends and family for a year. In addition, you need to be prepared to adapt to a completely different society and culture. Also, although most Israelis speak English quite well, it is not the native language, creating another cultural barrier, and a challenge in working with children. All these things may seem obvious, but none are to be taken lightly. If you are willing to accept and face these challenges, your experience will most definitely be worthwhile. The opportunity to absorb a new culture and a new language is thrilling. If you are open to change and development, you should find yourself comfortable in a matter of months, and whatever Hebrew skills you may have, even if they are minimal, will improve exponentially. Israel is also a beautiful country, despite being relatively small. Finally, the experience of volunteering itself is quite rewarding, and provides the opportunity to learn more about yourself and your interests.
 
    Now allow me to tell you a little about my program, Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Tikkun Olam is a unique volunteer program that places post-college English speakers in a low income south Tel Aviv neighborhood for a period of 5 or 10 months. Going into the program, I saw the opportunity to live in Tel Aviv as reason enough in itself to choose to Tikkun Olam over other options, but now it is easy to see other advantages as well. Tikkun Olam functions under the umbrella of an organization called Bina. Bina is a center for the study of Israeli culture and Jewish identity, and they are also responsible for other Israeli volunteer groups that function in this neighborhood. Therefore, we are integrated into a community of Israeli peers, and given the opportunity to volunteer along side them, and develop social ties with Israeli youth. We are also provided with a number of seminars on Jewish identity, and Israeli culture and politics. One more highlight is that we are provided with frequent trips and tours, within Tel Aviv, and to various other locations in the country. If you want more information on the Tikkun Olam program, you can visit their website at www.tikkunolamisrael.org
 
    I advise that, if interested in spending time abroad, you look into your options and find the program that is the right fit for you. Take your college diploma and let it send you to new lands, and new experiences. Whatever choices you make, I wish you all success.